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A1GP World Cup of Motorsport has today confirmed the Italian F3 Champion, Mirko Bortolotti, will drive the A1GP test car at the Portimao Circuit in the Algarve, Portugal from the 10-13 January after impressing Scuderia Ferrari at Fiorano recently. The 18-year-old had his first taste of Formula One with the legendry team at Fiorano, Ferrari’s official test circuit, as part of his reward for winning the Italian Formula 3 Championship, alongside Edoardo Piscopo and Salvatore Cicatelli who also ended the season in the top three. Bortolotti made the biggest impression recording a 59.111-second lap, breaking the lap record.

Mario Almondo, Operations Director, Gestione Sportiva said: “We are extremely happy that a young Italian driver who won the Italian Formula 3 Championship, and has shown his talent in a test day with the Ferrari F1 car, can have a such a good opportunity with A1GP.”

Current championship leader, A1 Team Ireland, is enjoying being top of the tables heading into the Christmas period. Its star driver, Portadown’s Adam Carroll, was honoured by Ireland’s motorsport media with their Manley Award for International Driver of the Year last Tuesday (9 December). Carroll’s race performances in A1GP saw his name added to the prestigious trophy, which has been won in the past by Formula One drivers Eddie Irvine and Martin Donnelly in the past.

“It was a nice surprise,” said Carroll of his award win. “I wasn’t expecting it and it’s an honour to see my name included on the trophy alongside so many great names from Ireland’s motorsport past. It’s been a great start to the season for us and, while the job is far from finished, it’s nice to be receiving recognition for our achievements.”

Off the back of his A1GP success Carroll also took part in the annual Race of Champions in Wembley on Sunday (14 December), where he and rally star Gareth MacHale competed for Ireland against drivers including seven-times Formula One World Champion, Michael Schumacher, and five-times World Rally Champion, Sebastien Loeb.

The luck of the Irish was not with Carroll though as he was pipped by 2006 and 2007 overall Race of Champions’ winner, Mattias Ekstrom. In the nation’s cup portion of the event, the Ireland team, consisting of Carroll and MacHale, was beaten in the first round by the German squad of Michael Schumacher and F1 racer Sebastian Vettel.

Carroll was not disheartened at his early exit in what is traditionally a friendly, good-natured event.

“It was good fun, but it didn’t last very long for me,” said Carroll. “I knew it was going to be tough after being drawn against Schumacher and Ekstrom.

“It’s a different style of driving to A1GP. No one is on your bit of track at the same time, so you just have to ignore the other driver you are racing against. You just concentrate on making every corner and making the car go as fast as you can get it to go. It is supposed to be a bit fun, but we all hate losing. People want to get out there and give it everything they’ve got.”

The overall event was won for the third time by rally ace Sebastien Loeb.

A1 Team Brazil’s Felipe Guimarães was also getting some additional racing in, starring alongside racing stars Scott Speed, Dan Wheldon and AJ Allmendinger last Thursday (11 December) as they took to the track at the 2008 Performance Racing Industry All-Stars Karting Classic. The event, now in its third year, took place at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

The Performance Racing Industry Trade Show is recognised as the world’s largest auto racing trade show, annually attracting over 45,000 members of the racing industry from 45 companies. The All-Stars Karting Classic is the jewel in the crown of the event, and has been given more gravitas with the news that Fox Sports, one of the biggest TV networks in North America, would televise a half-hour broadcast of the action in the first week of April 2009.

“I had a really enjoyable time,” said Guimarães. “I qualified in third position and then went on to win the first race. It was hard because the track is very small so everyone is setting the same lap times and it’s really hard to overtake. In the final race someone put me out on the first lap after I started from pole. I had another crash on the final lap as I tried to overtake someone and ended up outside of the top six. I had a great day though and the racing was really good.”

While A1 Team Mexico is spending the lead up to Christmas doing pit stop practice in Spain, rookie driver Esteban Gutiérrez was in Mexico City keeping on top of his game at the Formula BMW World Final. Local hero Gutiérrez claimed pole position after his success in the heats and came home third in the final last Sunday (7 December). The 17-year-old from Monterrey was still feeling positive after the event despite not adding a second accolade to his Formula BMW Europe title. “This weekend was good fun,” he said. “I had a lot of new experiences, and it was just great to feel the support of my fellow countrymen.” A1 Team Mexico has confirmed that the youngster will get his A1GP debut with the team in the A1GP Taupo, New Zealand rookie session.

“After having a great season in Formula BMW, I feel very excited to have the opportunity to climb up the ladder to more powerful cars,” he continued. “I think this new experience will help me develop myself a lot more and, working together with the team, I hope we can also develop the car and take Mexico to the top. I can’t wait to have this new experience in A1GP.”

Taupo Motorsport Park is also gearing up for the first event of the New Year with Managing Director David Steele saying that everything has been done to make the 2009 A1GP Taupo, New Zealand event the best yet.

The circuit has done a lot of work over the past year to help eradicate the dust problems at the first and second races, but Steele believes they have it under control.

“We have taken measures both inside on the circuit and track boundaries and outside the circuit to minimise dust issues experienced during the last event and, on top of that, the circuit has one more year’s growth and maturity, so that has helped as well,” said Steele. “Even with the extreme and unusual weather we saw in 2007 and 2008, we are confident we are as much in control as we can possibly be.”

As Season Four continues to provide excitement and close rivalry, A1GP fans can now also relive the incredible 2007/08 season with the limited edition A1GP World Cup of Motorsport season review book. The book captures all the drama and excitement of the 2007/08 season, with exhaustive race reports, plus exclusive features and analysis of an incredible campaign.

Forwarded by four-time Formula One world champion, Alain Prost, and containing work from award-winning writers and photographers, the 154-page large coffee-table book is a must-have for all A1GP fans.

This full-colour glossy review was produced in strictly limited numbers as an exclusive keepsake and copies can be reserved on A1GP.com now.

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